United States airlines face customer service warning

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 6, 2017

The hearing was Capitol Hill's first chance to grill airline executives since the violent removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight last month sparked global outrage.

"Seize this opportunity because if you don't, we're going to come and you're not going to like it", said Republican Representative Bill Shuster, chairman of the House transportation committee. If the airlines don't make changes, Congress is likely to step in, Shuster and other lawmakers said.

"Mr. Munoz, it took you two weeks to respond to that letter", Smucker said. Several members of Congress have introduced legislation to ban the bumping of passengers if flights are overbooked.

Airline executives are expected at Tuesday's hearing to outline specific actions they have taken or will take to try to prevent future incidents such as the one on the United flight, congressional aides said.

"I shouldn't need to remind you that Congress will not hesitate to act, whenever necessary, to ensure your customers, our constituents, are treated with the respect they deserve", he added.

But lawmakers said problems with air travel are commonplace. Lines are long, planes are delayed yet prices keep going up, he said. "We've got to get some customer service back in there".

"I expect that number to go down 80% because of that policy change", he said.

"Why do you hate the American people?" asked Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, according to CNBC. He can't sit up straight, and his legs stick out.

While much of the discussion during the hearing focused on overbooking and passengers getting bumped off flights, there were also complaints about airline industry consolidation and the lack of passenger choices, fees, and even seat size.

Also read: American Airlines employee accused of hitting mom with her baby's stroller. Munoz initially blamed Dao, but later said he was horrified by the event and called it a failure on United's part.

Airline reaches settlement agreement with Dr. David Dao, a passenger violently ejected from his seat on a UA flight to make room for staff.

If we don't see meaningful results that improve customer service, the next time this committee meets to address this issue I can assure you will not like the outcome.

In the case of the Dao incident, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., told Munoz "you made your problem your customer's problem ... putting the solution on the customer".

United moved to head off criticism last week by reaching a settlement with Mr Dao and issuing new policies created to prevent customer service failures.

On hand were two major airlines, United and American (AAL) and two smaller, low-priced carriers, Alaska Air (ALK) and Southwest Airlines (LUV).

American Airlines is more closely monitoring oversold flights and has promised not to remove anyone after a plane has already been boarded, said Kerry Philipovitch, senior vice president for customer experience.

Consumers rate airlines as one of their least-liked industries, according to a recent survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Munoz acknowledged United's failures in his opening statement.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.), the senior ranking Democrat on the committee, said airline customer service has deteriorated for years, including last summer when hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded because of computer meltdowns.

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